After I killed the rainbow snake; before I killed the orange snake.

I’ve been playing ever since that rat bastard Rob Beschizza of Boing Boing posted about it in late April. I run in somewhat nerdy gamer circles so I’ve been surprised at how little mention I’ve seen about it since then. If Grantland were still around I would have expected a 5,000 word Ben Lindbergh article about it, but I’m basing that on how much I like the game, not any idea I have of how popular it is. (Well, I guess I have some idea how popular it is… 61.4K uniques and 21,241 US Rank as estimated by Quantcast today with a healthy Alpine growth trend.)

It is a very simple in-browser game where you drive a snake around eating magic glowy things that make you grow. Your snake always moves forward, and you control its direction with mouse or keyboard. You will normally meander along but you also have the option to boost your snake’s speed at the cost of some of its size. If a snake’s head hits any part of another snake, it bursts into super magic glowy things in proportion to its size. It is very similar in concept to the Lightcycles in Tron. You’ll be playing on a server with around 500 other people and/or bot programs, and the top 10 players in length are displayed on a persistent leaderboard in the interface.


I started out playing as a pacifist. There are magic glowy things all over the game board, enough to turn every snake fat and sleek, free for all. So, with the end goal of survival and growth at all costs, I avoided contact with other players as much as I could and made regular use of the turn-back-across-yourself move that makes a shield of your own body and turns you in the opposite direction, away from an aggressor. If you play the game defensively and try to stay out of trouble, it is fairly likely that you’ll live a long time. At the beginning I never boosted, telling myself that snakes who boosted got themselves in trouble as often as not.

I was able to make the Top 10 with that strategy, but I ran into a couple of problems with it. First, I found it really irritating when, despite my clear policy of non-violence and ironclad commitment to meekly yield right-of-way to any snake, some alpha asswipe snake succeeded in murdering me. I remember moments of vivid purple outrage, and I started learning how to boost myself just to get away from jerk snakes like these.

A more serious issue with non-assertion came into focus as I learned the same lesson Louis Bloom did in Nightcrawler: the best place to be is right next to someone important, right after the worst thing has happened to them. The magic glowy things scattered around the game will give you a few feet in length, but the super magic glowy things that a dead snake turns into are worth several times that amount, and they are packed together solid in the area the snake’s body used to occupy. And big dead snakes attract boosting live snakes, and there are often multiple waves of collisions as big snakes get greedy, die, and create another trail of goodies to bring the other big snakes to dash themselves into each other. You can loop yourself around a share most of the time, repeating as the opportunity presents itself, and you can gain 1000 feet in couple of seconds if you are in the right place. I found these situations, but as a slow defensive snake I wasn’t finding them often enough. There was misery out there and I was fixing to be a part of as much of it as I could.

As in everyday life, sometimes I overestimate my own competence.

I’ve transitioned from slow and steady defensive growth to running with a somewhat more aggressive variant of Joel Johnson’s detailed writeup on his strategy, the only other place I’ve seen the game broken down. I’m usually driving toward the center of the map, where the highest concentration of snakes are. I boost a lot when I’m close to other snakes, and the larger I get the more I boost overall. I run north-south a lot, as that gives other snakes with standard aspect ratio displays about half the notice and reaction time once they see me. (If you’re playing on a computer, chances are you’ve got almost twice as many pixels horizontally as vertically in your interface. That’s almost twice as much time for you to take some sort of action I might not like.) And if you’re a large snake, or you’re shadowing me, or you act aggressive, I’ll probably attempt to kill you.

I’ve decided that if I’m pretty small, and I see a pretty large snake, it makes sense to try to kill and eat it even if all I’ve got is a low-percentage play. I fail a lot, especially if I’m so small that I can’t boost, but then I’m back in roughly the same state seconds later, after I hit the restart button. If I make an obvious and unsuccessful attempt without killing myself, there’s not much of a downside. The snake might boost aggressively, and they often end up doing something stupid when they do that. Or they might boost or crawl away from me, to which I say there’s plenty of fishes in the ocean, pal–I don’t need you. Meanwhile, if I can cut in front of a nice big snake and consume most of its body, I am at my sweet spot size-wise.

This is my happy place.

I love being a snake of three or low four figures in length. You still have a tight turning radius; you can boost for thirty seconds; and you’re big enough that if you stretch out, you can make it hard for a larger snake to circle you. I like to hang out right in the middle of a bunch of nice big snakes. If one of them miscalculates I can cut them off and kill them. Or if someone else someone else throws down and there’s a loser, the feeding frenzy starts anew. Sometimes you’ll find a single snake take everyone else out and crash right into you in the process, and you’re left sitting alone in a field of super magic glowy things.

I also like boosting to grab a portion of any glowy things I can. You’ll see players act possessively about the glowy things left behind after they kill a snake, which is understandable–they did all the work. You’ll often be able to bait them into making a hasty move and exposing themselves, and then you eat.

Always loop around the glowy bits when you can.

I disagree somewhat with Joel Johnson on the cross move; it is a low-risk approach, but if I’m going east-west I’ll usually boost on the trail of super magic glowy things with an eye towards turning off towards any other glowy things I see if I run into a snake going the other way. It is true that I sometimes run head-on into someone with better reflexes than me, but I’ve eaten lots of glowy things I wouldn’t have gotten to the other way around. As you get larger, you want to drag your body in a big defensive circle around any concentrations of glowy things you find, so you can eat them without interference.

One of the standard moves for larger snakes is to loop around smaller snakes so the smaller snake hits the larger snake’s body and becomes snake food. As I get to prime lariat size of 15,000 or more, I tend to do this less and less. I will try to encircle someone when I’m competing with them for the same corpus of glowy things; or if I see another snake that has encircled a snake–love punishing the dicks who live on this move; or if I can loop around a bunch of snakes at once. Even then, you’ve got to watch out for a larger snake doing the same thing to you, so I like to stay pretty stretched out and hard to encircle myself.

I ended up letting them go when another big snake started circling.

I’ll often boost towards other snakes, then turn at the last minute. I’m consistently surprised with how poorly even larger snakes handle that. And if I can ever cut another snake off, I’m happy to try it. I’m also easy to rile up and pretty willing to get in a race with another snake. If everything is going right, I’m at 20,000 length within 5 minutes, but I’ll probably die a half-dozen times in shorter games and at pedestrian length to get there. C’est la vie, I can watch an advertisement every so often. If I’m a larger snake and I try to attack another snake and lose, I’m much happier about it than if I’m trying to stay out of trouble and trouble finds me anyway.

I feel like you could do a lot of interesting things with the data that they most be compiling on players. You’d have a ton of data to work with, as you can play many games in an evening instead of one or two. I bet you could build a pretty sophisticated behavior and quality profile of a player based on their results. I’d love to see more public facing work in this direction. It is time for the sabermetric revolution. is approachable, polished, and the best in-browser game I’ve ever played. Give it a try… and remember, if you happen to assassinated by Cobra Commander, it was just business.

Breaking News: JesusH, Resurrected (However Briefly)!

OK, calm down everybody. I know longtime JesusH fans have been on tenterhooks wondering where I’ve been. To make a long story short, I’ve been busy making this:

hilda's fashion parade 5of5, handspun handknit with ❤️ cardi by mom 💕🎉😻 !

A photo posted by 👊🏽💥 (@vaquera) on

give or take a few years.

So I was looking around for some good, solid, reliable kid-rearing resources to ensure I don’t accidentally raise a complete moron when I stumbled upon the JesusH Book Reviews! What a treasure trove of information I can trust! Callooh! Callay!

A thought occurred to me as I was perusing these reviews: JesusH is absolutely *loaded* with smart people with lots of experience and who write interesting things–albeit not at JesusH lately.  And why not at JesusH?  Oh, I imagine you are all so super busy with your engaging work and your child-rearing and your family nurturing and all.  Or maybe you’re like me and in this text- and chat- heavy world you haven’t managed to construct a grammatically cogent and acronym-free sentence in ages.  But I’d like to coax you back into visiting JesusH from time to time.  Read a little, post a little.  I know it can be a challenge to fit one more thing into your day or week.  In fact, I know I find the prospect daunting.  But what I lack in confidence I have in hope; whereas once upon a time I might’ve tossed a disdainful gauntlet, now I just entreat you to a modest enterprise: post occasionally.  Something amazing might happen!

And I know that I’m late to the reproduction circus but I know you all are loaded with interesting kid things that, frankly, I think would be a shame not to share.  I know because I’ve already seen a glimpse of it (have I mentioned those awesome book reviews?) already.

I give JesusH the rare and coveted five Pochaccos 

Let’s keep the flame alive!


Many irritating operating system gymnastics sessions later, I finished Bioshock late last week. I was pretty close to throwing up my hands when the game started crashing regularly when I reached Fort Frolic, about midway through. I ended up having to clear out my save games, turn off a Vista OS feature or two, and start all over.

I’ve been blaming Vista for a lot of my issues with computing ever since I got this computer, but I’ll throw some blame 2K Games’ way for this situation as Bioshock’s issues with Vista have been so widely reported, and the Orange Box games I finished a while back were rock-solid on the same computer. Get it together, 2K Games!

* There are a lot of weapons. I barely even used the last few I got. The research camera was a wonderful addition to the standard FPS arsenal.

* There is a lot more character development possible than in Half-Life 2, what with the plasmids and buffout upgrades in addition to all the weapons. However, most of that ended up evening out by the last third of the game–unless you were a complete tool, you were going to have all the cool stuff one way or another by then.

The downside of allowing this kind of development is that the game becomes unbalanced, which Bioshock did for me. After a ton of buildup during the level load, I killed the last boss in the game by running up to him and hitting him with the wrench (the default melee weapon in the game–think the crowbar in Half-Life) repeatedly… the biggest click-fest since Diablo.

* You’ve got a hard limit of $500 in your wallet (at least on the Medium level of difficulty, which is what I played). I kept running into this, which tells me two things: that I’m a cheap bastard, and that yet again I probably should have played the game at its hardest setting.

* I think the possibility of a security camera seeing you and sounding the alarm was supposed to be more of a consideration than it turned out to be. Once I got Natural Camouflage, which I did pretty early on, security alerts were a total non-issue. Also, the previously-mentioned Pipe Dream-style hacking minigame remained ridiculous throughout.

* After starting off fairly underwhelmed by the game experience I got progressively more into it. The back-story of Rapture was interesting, the characters seemed to have some stories to tell, and the designers did a good job of building suspense and interest in the game universe.

Then came the Sixth Sense-style reveal down the home stretch, followed by increasingly less interesting levels and story in the second half. I really started to lose buy-in, and that continued through the finale. Like the New England Patriots, Bioshock peaked way too soon.

Two Pochaccos. Parts were quite fun, but the game was oversold and crash-tastic.

This game review is for Patrick.

Half-Life 2 Re-Review

Did I tell you that I got a badass new computer a couple of months ago? I’m now able to play video games of more recent vintage than Diablo II for the first time in years.

I got the Orange Box and re-played Half-Life 2 and both Episodes, which took me about a month because I don’t get a lot of free time to blow on video games lately for some reason. I wanted to update my moldy old Half-Life 2 review with some additional information.

* I previously owned Half-Life 2, obviously, and got the Orange Box because I’m a lazy sack and wanted to get all the episodes and Portal without tracking down my old game (which I gave to Woody anyway). I figured when I installed the games Valve’s Steam system would say “ha ha, thanks for buying multiple copies of the same game dummy” if it remembered that I had the games previously at all, but instead it gave me credit for two copies of HL2 and offered to allow me to send one to a friend. I was originally very skeptical of Steam but this is really cool!

* The graphics in this game are awesome. When I previously played it I was plumbing the limits of my hardware; now I can play it at highest res and still get good framerate and no glitching and I enjoyed it.

* I pumped up the difficulty this time around and died more often as a result. That’s a good tip for you l33t gamerz like myself.

* I still thought the end of HL2 was a little more like a cutscene than a playable video game. That’s really my only complaint. The episodes were very fun, and I enjoyed the gameplay a lot more than I remember the first time around.

Five Pochaccos, Valve. Excellent job. I can’t wait for Episode Three!

Post-publication edit: I can’t believe I forgot this one… I live and work near Miramar, and they’ve got those big two-prop cargo choppers that fly around on a regular basis. Lately I’ve left my building at work or the house and heard a couple of those things whomping around, and I’ve reached for my laser-guided RPG to take them down–not because I hate the Marines or America but because I’m so used to blowing up the gunships in Half-Life 2.

Fame at Last!

I know I haven’t posted in a gazillion years so when the conjoined twin opportunities for celebrating a year (sorta) of blogging and for general self-aggrandizement poked their collective unruly head outta nowhere I had to whac that mole (sic) clear across JesusH.

So without further ado…check it: I can’t believe it—I made the local rag! Read on, read on, and bask in my glory (scroll down to “bearded bandit”)!

A note before you go, though: in some cases, names gender and/or temperament have been altered to assure the privacy of the allegedly complacent music listener through obfuscation. Also, some artistic license has clearly been taken, presumably for the benefit of the older and/or weak-hearted readership.

I have to say that this is definitely a step up from the last time I was in the Planet; I believe the adjective used then was ‘execrable’. But that is neither here nor there (no, for reals: I searched for the review but it’s not up anymore). No, what concerns me is that there is a certain je nais c’est quoi missing from the Planet‘s take. Or maybe it’s all the action. Or the facts, goddamnit. I think a rewrite is in order.

Continue reading “Fame at Last!”

Review: The Clean House

“I didn’t go to medical school just so I could clean my own house.”
–Lane, The Clean House

What happens when the maid stops cleaning because she’s depressed, your husband discovered his Basherte in the examination room, and your elder sister’s resentment towards you fills the air with the spite of a nine-year-old? Well, if your story is being penned by the very witty and compassionate Sarah Ruhl, the unthinkable and the absurd might come into your life, but chances are you’ll come out ahead in the end, less entrenched in your idea of how things are, and more understanding of the human condition. In the depths of your despair you might find yourself demanding that shitty pigs eating shitty cow shit-manure invade your house; perhaps you might encounter the most perfect joke ever along the way. At any rate you’re in for a seriously fun romp that makes the most of the theatrical medium.

Continue reading “Review: The Clean House

Preparing for the Holidays in the Third Person

It’s no secret that la Vaquera has hit a bit of a rough spot; what with the miserable excuse for aggressive political conviction that was California’s recent special election, a temporary lapse in the integrity of her health, Don Klaiber ignoring her needy entreaties for knitting solidarity at JesusH*, and assorted work woes, it has been long since she has been in good humor, let alone in fine writing form.

However, she has managed to get some holiday knitting done:

cardigan for emi

So, all in all, she considers November (so far) a

kind of month.

*UPDATE: My goodness, things are looking up already! I was remiss in noticing that Don Klaiber has, indeed, come through on the knitting front! Rah, rah, rah! I therefore upgrade November’s rating to


Thanks, Don! And, wowzers, in my excitement I seem to have slipped back into the first person! I’ve been revived!

Review: The Original Cel-Ray™

The other day I decided to travel to the exotic and vastly misunderstood land of Temescal. Temescal–with its rich heritage of blacksmiths, fruit and vegetable packers, men and women! Temescal–with one of the best transfer stations in the BART system, a cleverly named yarn store, and its own creek! Since Temescal is an Oaktown neighborhood, it isn’t unusual to run into people who blanch at the idea of visiting. Those people are fools.

But this review is not about those people, nor is it about Temescal (because, clearly, Temescal is where it’s at).

I secretly wanted to visit a bakery I’d never been to, but having skipped breakfast and not yet having had lunch, I thought it’d be a little naughty to eat fun baked goods without having consumed a real meal all day. What to do, what to do? Ah, yes! Across the street–the beloved Genova Delicatessen, a Temescal staple! My companion and I hastily crossed over to get sandwiches.

Once the sandwich master had my order, I wandered over to the refrigerator that held various drinks. And there it was–the first and last thing that caught my eye. Before I knew it I’d opened the glass-paned door and snatched it up.

Continue reading “Review: The Original Cel-Ray™”